There are many airfields in this country that have sadly just ‘disappeared’. Whether it be to housing, industry or agriculture, the fact remains they are no longer there and are now reduced to fading memories and mere mentions in the history books. For many of these it is too late.
Thankfully though, many of our larger airfields have had their buildings, especially hangars or Nissen huts, reused in some guise or other and so they live on in the day-to-day lives of their new owners. Whilst travelling around southern Cambridgeshire on my recent trails, I came across several examples of these lost or forgotten sites. The first is the rather oddly named Caxton Gibbet.
RAF Caxton Gibbet.
Having a history worthy of reading in itself, Caxton Gibbet has links to not only the Doomsday book, but also the Romans and the Bronze Age with traces of early settlements being unearthed only recently. Its folklore talks of brutal and violent executions and for a small village, it has a remarkable amount to shout about.
Its history therefore includes a lot of death and this wouldn’t change during the Second World War.
The small field that was Caxton Gibbet airfield was partly used as a relief landing ground. It was centred between the numerous airfields around here but it was never designed to be a major player nor hold more than about 80 personnel. It only had grass runways, temporary accommodation and a few small brick structures, including airfield defence positions, to signify its existence . It was used primarily by nearby 22 Elementary Flying Training School ‘F’ Flight, based at Cambridge flying a variety of biplane trainers. It was also used as an emergency landing ground and it was not surprising to see a wounded bomber attempting landing here. Surprisingly though, despite its lack of ‘operational’ importance, Caxton Gibbet suffered a rather large number of attacks from Luftwaffe aircraft. A number of bombs were dropped on it, several personnel were killed and damage was inflicted to a number of aircraft. However, despite all this unwarranted attention, little impact was made on this small and rather ‘insignificant’ airfield during its long history.
A number of training accidents did occur, practising stalls and other dangerous manoeuvres did claim several lives from the young would-be pilots. Locals tell of aircraft falling from the sky and aircrews plummeting to their deaths.
Opened in 1934 it would remain in use until the end of the war in 1945. A small gliding club utilised the site post-war but eventually it was closed and returned to agriculture.
A small village that is battling for its own existence against the spreading conurbations that now surround it, Caxton Gibbet is slowly being absorbed into much larger developments. As for the airfield, it would seem it has now disappeared but its stories, like Caxton’s gruesome history, live on in the history books.
RAF Caxton Gibbet forms part of Trail 29.